Make Your New Year's Resolutions SMART(ER)

By Dorette Greene, LMSW

Are you thinking about making a New Year's Resolution for 2018? Well, you’re not alone. Millions of people make resolutions each year and it’s estimated that many of those people fail. According to StatisticsBrain.Com the most popular resolution made in 2017 was to lose weight/have healthier eating habits at 21.4%. I’m going to go out on limb here, but I have a feeling this will be the most popular resolution again this year (and likely, by a majority of the folks who resolved this in 2017). BUT WHY?!

Resolutions aren’t necessarily hard to make, but for many they can be extremely difficult to keep. also reported the number of individuals who failed at their resolution completely was 42.4%. This just shows us that what we resolve to do in the New Year is not as important as how we resolve to do it. So how do we make a resolution and actually stick to it?  Think of your New Year's Resolution as a goal. Then do some goal setting. Sounds simple enough, right?

My favorite goal setting method is creating SMART goals. SMART being an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable/achievable/action oriented/assignable (pick whichever "A" is most pertinent to your goal), relevant, and time-related. If you want to be fancy you can also try SMART(ER) goals which include Evaluation and Review. Here’s an idea of how to get started thinking about SMART goals and how to change your 2018 resolution to a goal you will be able to actualize.

Make your goal....

Specific: The beauty in goal setting, especially when using SMART goals, is the ability to be specific. This means being concrete in identifying not only the target but also the metrics you will use in the process. Stay away from creating vague, broad, overarching goals. This part of the process is about the details.

Measurable: Creating measurable goals makes it easier to visualize your progress. Remember those metrics we just spoke about? That’s your yard stick. Use it to measure how far away from your goal you are and more importantly how much progress you have made since you started. Measuring your progress makes it easier to consider changes you can make to get better results, or reconsider things that may be hindering your progress.

Attainable/Achievable: Conceptualizing how attainable a goal is may be a matter of subjective opinion; however, it goes without saying that it’s never a good idea to create a goal you don’t believe you can actually achieve. Remember these are your goals, so you can set the bar as high as you want. Just make sure the bar is still within your reach.

Action-oriented: Set goals that require concerted action. This means you not only have a clear objective in mind but you also have a plan towards how you will mobilize those actions.

Assignable: If you are setting goals that involve others, make sure that the roles towards achieving those goals are assignable. Goal setting towards a collective goal requires that the other people involved are aware of the goal and understand their responsibilities in the process.

Relevant: Ensure that the actions you are taking are relevant to the goals you have set. There’s nothing worse than self-sabotaging, which is what happens when the actions you choose are not congruent with the goals you would like to accomplish.

Time-related: Create deadlines! Not just for the overall goal but for the actions around that goal. This ensures that you are consistently checking in with yourself and assessing your progress.

Evaluation: Consistent evaluation of your goal to asses for not only progress but patterns helps to maintain momentum in following through with a goal. Momentum is important as it's easier to maintain momentum than it is to stop and then start over again.

Review: This is where you reflect on whether you have completed the goal or not. Consistent assessment is integral to your success. I also like to tell my clients that the R can and should also stand for reward as you should reward yourself along the way. Particularly when you have little wins towards your greater goal.

Making a lasting change in your life is a daunting process and is difficult for most, but it can be done. New Years can be a great time to begin implementing changes in your life as well as setting new goals and more importantly accomplishing them. It doesn’t have to be hard, you just have to be a little SMARTER about it.


Dorette Greene is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy.  If you are looking for support in making and reaching your goals,  visit to learn how therapy might be able to help.